Mission impossible: How to be happy in work – always and forever, until you die

In the UK, the average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. In the US, 80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs and couples in which one partner spends 10 or more hours above the average at work divorce at twice the normal rate. And in Japan, 10,000 workers a year drop dead at their desks as a result of 60- to 70-hour working weeks inflicted upon them. The phenomenon is known as ‘karoshi’.

There’s no doubt that finding peace with your career and a way to embrace the daily grind is the key to life itself.

At the age of 42 I’m currently pretty happy in my working life. I have a decent job in a good, young financial services start-up. It’s fun and engaging but not overly stressful or pressured. But it hasn’t always been like that. Far from it. There have been times when I was barely sleeping with worry and stress, forgetting to eat for days on end and snapping at anyone who dared cross my path. I’ve had the unenviable ‘pleasure’, like many London workers in this day and age, of going through a couple of redundancies. And to steer myself from such times in the future, or at least minimise the potential damage and upset, is pretty high up my priority list.

Having a plan is essential. So I’ve been thinking of dream jobs for my semi-retirement years, or businesses I’d like to run, and have drawn up a list of 12.

  1. Sandwich shop owner
  2. Cheese-maker
  3. Cattery owner
  4. Driver
  5. Publican
  6. Postman
  7. Painter (decorative, not artistic)
  8. Furniture retailer
  9. Running shop owner
  10. Publican
  11. Marketing consultant
  12. T-shirt printer

There are different stages of life and you need a new way to synchronise your mojo to each one. We rattle or stroll through life at our own individual pace, so the following age ranges are representative only…

In your 20s

Don’t stress. Earn enough to get by and work hard at a wide range of things. You’re gaining experience, not defining your career. You might not earn loads but that’s ok. That’s actually as good thing. Don’t make job choices based primarily on salary, as tempting as it might be. Enjoy living on the edge and being wilful.

Try (nearly) everything. Be confident. Tell your boss in a charming way of your many wonderful ideas. Work for free. Blog about it. Increase your network. You’ll never be this liberated with work ever again. So embrace it.

In your 30s

You know some stuff. Or at least you think you do. It’s time to make a beeline for a job or company that needs your youthful spirit yet insightful and innovative insight. Demand big bucks for your expertise. Don’t be afraid of the big dogs. Many of them will be scared of your verve and secretly dying on their arse. They can’t match you for diligence, speed, honesty, fresh-thinking, agility, passion or inspiration.

Start to make provisions for your financial future. You’ll need it. Don’t be so cocky to think you won’t. Save hard, invest smart.

In your 40s

Ok, by now you’ve really learned a thing or two. Probably dodged a few curve-balls along the way but had some hard knocks too. Maybe gone through a couple of redundancy situations. No doubt had a bastard of a boss. It’s time to use all of this to your advantage. Hang back a bit. Play the game, play the field. Exude experience yet freshness.

Remind your employer you still go to the gym three times a week and skip over any mention of family duties in case it’s perceived as diminishing your ability to put in the extra hours out of office. Plan a long-term game. You’re not jumping in and out of jobs any more. Your earning potential will never be this good again. The same goes for your saving potential. Smarm up to start-ups. They need your talent.

In you’re 50s

Plan your exit strategy from the cut-and-thrust of regular working life and while doing so take every penny you can. Lay the foundations for consultancy work. Pile high your ISAs and pensions. Take a bit of extra time out for strategy meetings and turn your one-year strategy plans into five-year plans – and make sure you have to be around to deliver them!

Plot an avenue to a lucrative golden-shake. And draw up your own list of 12 semi-retirement dream jobs. You’re not going to quit working at 55. Or are you?

And beyond

The world is your oyster. Your career path has laid a playground of opportunity. You have a gold-plated CV, bundles of amazing contacts and the finances to carve out a wonderful working end to your life. If you still need to earn, marry your passions with making money. Do it on your terms. Die happy.

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